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In this study, we examined the research literature in the field of K-12 online learning to identify the leading scholars, journals, top cited articles, research methods, and topics in this field of inquiry. Our research process involved collecting a corpus of journal articles focused on K-12 online and distance learning; categorizing these articles according to their research methodologies; analyzing trends not only in methodologies employed but also in authorship, citations, journals, and topics addressed. We found the field of K-12 online learning to be growing rapidly in recent years with acceleration not only of new articles but especially of new authors. We also found the field began primarily with emphasizing theoretical articles but is now maturing and emphasizing increasingly more data-based articles. We found K-12 online learning scholarship is scattered among many journals, providing rich opportunities for scholars while also making it more difficult to discern trends across the discipline. Available online at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01587919.2018.1553566
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Distance Education
ISSN: 0158-7919 (Print) 1475-0198 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cdie20
K-12 online learning journal articles: trends from
two decades of scholarship
Karen T. Arnesen, Joshua Hveem, Cecil R. Short, Richard E. West & Michael K.
Barbour
To cite this article: Karen T. Arnesen, Joshua Hveem, Cecil R. Short, Richard E. West & Michael
K. Barbour (2019) K-12 online learning journal articles: trends from two decades of scholarship,
Distance Education, 40:1, 32-53, DOI: 10.1080/01587919.2018.1553566
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ARTICLE
K-12 online learning journal articles: trends from two
decades of scholarship
Karen T. Arnesen
a
, Joshua Hveem
a
, Cecil R. Short
a
, Richard E. West
a
and Michael K. Barbour
b
a
Department of Instructional Psychology and Technology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, USA;
b
College of Education & Health Sciences, Touro University California, Vallejo, CA, USA
ABSTRACT
In this study, we examined the research literature in the eld of K-
12 online learning to identify the leading scholars, journals, top
cited articles, research methods, and topics in this eld of inquiry.
Our research process involved collecting a corpus of journal arti-
cles focused on K-12 online and distance learning; categorizing
these articles according to their research methodologies; analyzing
trends not only in methodologies employed but also in author-
ship, citations, journals, and topics addressed. We found the eld
of K-12 online learning to be growing rapidly in recent years with
acceleration not only of new articles but especially of new authors.
We also found the eld began primarily with emphasizing theore-
tical articles but is now maturing and emphasizing increasingly
more data-based articles. We found K-12 online learning scholar-
ship is scattered among many journals, providing rich opportu-
nities for scholars while also making it more dicult to discern
trends across the discipline.
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 12 September 2018
Accepted 26 November 2018
KEYWORDS
Distance education and
telelearning; elementary
education; secondary
education; K-12 online
learning; virtual school;
cyber school; journal
analysis
Introduction
In 2014, the K-12 Online Learning special interest group of the Society for Information
Technology and Teacher Education established the Journal of Online Learning Research.
In its inaugural issue, the editors wrote:
Journal of Online Learning Research is focused on publishing manuscripts that address online
learning, catering particularly to the educators who research, practice, design, and/or
administer in primary and secondary schooling in online settings. . . . Journal of Online
Learning Research is both international and interdisciplinary, publishing qualitative, quanti-
tative, and mixed methods research from multiple elds and disciplines that have a shared
goal of improving primary and secondary education worldwide. (Kennedy & Archambault,
2015,p.6)
A review of the articles in this particular journal reveals statements such as one of the
diculties facing educators is dening online learning environments and providing an
adequate research base in the professional literature(Curtis & Werth, 2015, p. 164) or
CONTACT Michael K. Barbour mkbarbour@gmail.com College of Education & Health Sciences, Touro University
California, 1310 Club Drive, Vallejo, CA, USA
Supplementary detail for this article can be accessed here.
DISTANCE EDUCATION
2019, VOL. 40, NO. 1, 3253
https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2018.1553566
© 2018 Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia, Inc.
while there has been exponential growth in K-12 online learning, there exists a lack of
research into best practices for K-12 online teaching(Linton, 2016, p. 420). These kinds
of statements are not unique to the Journal of Online Learning Research and are common
across articles published by scholars in the eld of K-12 online learning.
These statements are often based on earlier literature from the eld. For example,
Barbour and Reeves (2009) wrote that there [had] been a decit of rigorous reviews of
the literature related to virtual schools(p. 402), while Rice (2006) lamented that a
paucity of research exists when examining high school students enrolled in virtual
schools, and the research base is smaller still when the population of students is further
narrowed to the elementary grades(p. 430). Further, Cavanaugh, Barbour, and Clark
(2009) wrote that much of the literature in the eld was based upon the personal
experiences of those involved in the practice of virtual schooling(p. 5), as opposed to
empirical research. It is entirely possible that at the time these statements were written
they were accurate commentaries on the eld of K-12 online learning. However, it is also
possible that due to the fact that many of the early scholars in K-12 online learning came
from such varied backgrounds, had such dierent professional training, and were work-
ing in such a wide variety of elds (Barbour, 2007a); that these scholars also published in
a wide variety of outlets that were reective of this early diversity. Because of this wide
range of publication outlets, much of the literature in the eld of K-12 online learning
may have gone unnoticed by many of its own scholars.
The purpose of this study was to examine the research literature in the eld of K-12
online learning to provide an analytical perspective on the eld. More specically, we
aimed to analyze K-12 online learning research based on the journal articles that have
been published in the eld from 1994 to 2016. While not a part of the Journal Analysis
Series(West, 2016), we elected to use the same systematic model provided in those
analyses. As such, we analyzed the trends in methodologies, authors, and word fre-
quency in abstracts and keywords (West, 2011). It also helped illuminate key leaders
within the discipline and increase understanding about publication trends something
that is especially important for a eld of inquiry like K-12 online learning, which is still
relatively new and growing.
Literature review
Among the ways to examine the state of any eld are formal procedures to describe,
evaluate, and monitor the research, such as bibliometrics and citation analysis
(Leydesdor,1986;Polanco,1995), both of which procedures use statistical analysis to
examine the impact of scholarly publications (Vogel & Güttel, 2013, p. 428). There are also
systematic methods to examine the research published in a eld, which often take the
form of literature reviews (Webster & Watson, 2002). For such a review to be eective in
moving a eld forward, it must promote new theories by illuminating the areas of research
in which there exists both robust research and too little research. The eld of K-12 online
learning has seen both formal and informal examinations using many of these methods,
and it is important for readers to understand what has been learned thus far.
While almost every well-written piece of research in the eld of K-12 online learning
includes some form of literature review, it is generally accepted that there have been
four systematic eorts to broadly examine the eld through reviews of the literature.
DISTANCE EDUCATION 33
The rst of these literature reviews was by Rice (2006), who examined themes in the
literature from approximately 1994 to 2005 that broadly related to K-12 distance
education. The second literature review was by Barbour and Reeves (2009), who exam-
ined themes in the literature more specically related to K-12 online learning from 1995
to 2008 through the lens of the benets and challenges outlined by Berge and Clark
(2005). The third literature review was by Cavanaugh et al. (2009), who examined only
those themes found in open access (i.e., freely available online) literature related to K-12
online learning from 1997 to 2008. Finally, the fourth literature review was by Hasler
Waters, Barbour, and Menchaca (2014), who examined themes in the literature more
specically related to full-time K-12 online learning from 1998 to 2013.
In addition to these more thematic literature reviews, there have also been other
examinations of the state of the eld. For example, in her contribution to the
International handbook on K-12 online and blended learning, Lowes (2014) looked at
what she described as the research methods used during the rst 10 years of research
on online teaching and learning(p. 83), even though the reference list was limited to
items from 2004 to 2014. Lowes reported that much of the early research was experi-
mental or quasi-experimental research focused on comparing student performance
between the online and face-to-face environments, which was consistent with several
of the earlier literature reviews all of which referenced the signicant body of literature
focused on analyzing online student achievement relative to traditional face-to-face
environments (Barbour & Reeves, 2009; Cavanaugh et al., 2009; Hasler Waters et al.,
2014; Rice, 2006). Additionally, Lowes also reported that case studies were a common
type of research that was used to examine various topics related to teaching and
learning within the online learning environment, which was also consistent with the
themes in the earlier literature reviews. For example, Rice (2006) reported that one of the
two remaining themes in the literature was research into teaching and learning online,
while Barbour and Reeves (2009) indicated that the literature they reviewed focused on
issues of online student readiness characteristics, online instructional strategies, and
local support required to ensure student retention.
However, unlike the earlier literature reviews, Lowes (2014) excluded large swaths of
potential research (e.g., books and book chapters, dissertations and theses, evaluation
reports, any reports that she deemed as being designed for advocacy purposes, etc.).
These exclusions, along with the limited range of dates, limited the usefulness of Lowes
analysis, and resulted in a signicant overrepresentation of literature focused on supple-
mental K-12 online learning (i.e., students enrolled in traditional brick-and-mortar
schools and also enrolled in one or more courses to supplement their curricular oer-
ings). For example, Rice (2006) indicated that a third theme in the literature was items
related to online learning policy, while Hasler Waters et al. (2014) suggested that much
of this literature had come amidst concerns about oversight and/or accountability,
improper use of public funds, poor grades, and high dropout rates. Most of this policy
literature would have been included in sources that Lowes excluded from her analysis.
There have been a few attempts to examine journal articles focused on K-12 online
learning in the past. For example, Barbour (2011) reviewed 262 articles from the American
Journal of Distance Education (United States), Distance Education (Australia), the Journal of
Distance Education (Canada), and the Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) from 2005
to 2009 and found that only 24 articles (or less than 10%) related to K-12 distance and
34 K. T. ARNESEN ET AL.
online learning. Barbour further reported that 18 of those 24 articles had a North America
focus. This is consistent with Barbour (2018a), who reported that of the 38 articles
published in the Journal of Online Learning Research from its establishment in 2015 to
2017, only two focused on research conducted in countries other than the United States.
In summary, there have been many useful reviews and analyses of the K-12 online
learning literature, revealing that a variety of research methods have been used to study
individual learning characteristics and needs as well as institutional and teacher conditions
for success. While the literature seems to touch on a good variety of important topics, the
depth of scholarship is still relatively shallow, but growing; and in particular there is a dearth
of understanding about elementary online learning and K-12 online learning outside of the
United States. However, most of these reviews have focused on a segment of the scholar-
ship, neglecting other pieces related to policy and practice. What is needed is a clear
summary of the leading journals, topics, gures, and research strategies to help the eld
understand what is being studied, and what opportunities might still need exploration.
Methodology
Our research process involved rst, collecting a corpus of journal articles focused on K-
12 online and distance learning; second, categorizing these articles according to their
research methodologies; third, analyzing trends not only in methodologies employed
but also in authorship, citations, journals, and topics addressed.
Article selection
Because our focus in this study was on K-12 online and distance learning, dening and
narrowing the scope of articles to analyze was dicult. Generic database searches
returned many articles related to blended learning, higher education, or preservice train-
ing. Thus, we began the article collection process with sources that are specictotheeld,
such as the Handbook of K-12 online and blended learning (Ferdig & Kennedy, 2014;
Kennedy & Ferdig, 2018), the K-12 chapters in the various editions of the Handbook of
distance education (Barbour, 2013; Cavanaugh, 2007,2013; Clark, 2003,2007,2013), the
Journal of Online Learning Research (see https://www.aace.org/pubs/jolr/), and the K-12
Online and Blended Learning Clearinghouse (see http://k12onlineresearch.org/). We mined
the reference lists from the chapters and articles in these sources for all authors of K-12
online learning articles. In other words, if an article was cited for something other than a K-
12 online learning research study, for example, as a theoretical piece related to educa-
tional technology in general, the article was excluded.
Second, we mined these researchersGoogle Scholar and faculty proles for additional
journal articles that they might have published (and the reference lists of those articles).
Finally, we also conducted Google Scholar searches using terms individually and in
conjunction with each other that included, but were not limited to K-12, distance educa-
tion, online school*, virtual school*, virtual learning, cyber school*, cyber charter school*,
cyber learning, e-school*, electronic school*, Internet high school*, and e-learning (con-
sistent with the keywords used by Barbour and Reeves (2009), Cavanaugh et al. (2009)and
Hasler Waters et al. (2014)). After collecting articles following these steps, we eliminated
DISTANCE EDUCATION 35
those not published in academic journals (i.e., book chapters, essays). This process
generated an initial data set of 315 articles.
Third, we sought assurance that our data set was as complete as possible. In qualitative
research, peer debrieng is often used to give credibility to a data collection process by
providing a copy of the data and decisions made to an expert peer for review (see Williams,
2018). We employed a similar strategy in this study, by reaching out to 44 of those scholars
who had appeared in the initial data set, as well as those involved in the K-12 Online
Learning Special Interest Group of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher
Education (see http://site.aace.org/sigs/k12-online-learning-sig/) and the former research
committee of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. In this correspondence,
we provided a copy of our data set at that stage and asked these scholars if we had included
a complete sampling of their journal articles in our data set. We also sought any additional
recommendations that they had of journal articles that we may have overlooked.
Following this process, we had a nal pool of 356 articles for analysis. After compiling
this collection of articles, we requested a more thorough data audit from an outside expert
who reviewed our methods and article pool for completeness. In a previous, but separate,
study into the top scholars and departments in the eld of educational technology (West,
Thomas, Bodily, Wright, & Borup, 2017), we employed a similar data audit successfully. For
the audit of the current study, we asked an expert who was a full professor from another
university who had researched K-12 online education, taught courses on distance educa-
tion, and received over US$1,000,000 in external research funding. In a condential report,
this expert concluded, Iamcondent this research process generated a comprehensive list
of major articles in K-12 online and distance learning within the community conducting
research in this areaand that the analysis should
assist other scholars in understanding major researchers in this eld and most-cited seminal
articles, where these researchers are publishing their work, when this research eld began
to take o, what topics have been researched and have yet to be researched, and common
methodologies applied in this research.
While the external scholar suggested more could be done to identify non-Western
articles, the expert reported that they felt this was a comprehensive list of research-
focused journal articles in K-12 online and distance learning.
We believe this process included the majority of published K-12 online learning
scholarship. (We have provided a copy of our data set of the 356 articles that is available
for download at https://tinyurl.com/K12OnlineLearningData.)
Analysis
We analyzed the collected articles for trends in article topics, authorship, published
journals, citations, and research methodology following the model utilized by West
(2011,2016) as a part of the Journal Analysis Series.
Authorship
In order to identify key contributors in the eld of K-12 online learning, we rst noted the
top publishing authors in terms of total publications. Second, we used a medal scoring
system to weigh lead authorships more heavily: three points for the rst author, two
36 K. T. ARNESEN ET AL.
points for the second, and one point for third authorship and beyond. We considered
authors to be listed in order of contribution unless stated otherwise.
Publishing outlets
In order to identify key publishing outlets, we recorded the publication outlet for each
article and sorted the spreadsheet to determine the most commonly targeted publica-
tion outlets. We also examined authors using only publishing outlets included in Scopus
to give further insight into the types of journals publishing K-12 online research.
Citations
For our citation analysis, we entered each article into Google Scholar and noted the
citations received, which we entered into a spreadsheet and then sorted to determine
the most cited articles. Many of the most current articles had no citation information.
Google Scholar was selected as the most appropriate tool given that the vast majority of
articles in the data set were not included in other citation indices.
Article topics
To nd and analyze the topics of the top 20 articles, we gathered the ERIC database
descriptors for these articles. Two of the articles had no ERIC descriptors; one had key-
words in the Learning and Technology Library that we used instead. From this process, we
developed a list of 237 descriptors (i.e., keywords) with 141 unique descriptors. We
inserted these words into a spreadsheet and organised them alphabetically, eliminating
words such as Internet, education,andonline in our analysis due to the redundancy of
these words in the title of the journal and the consequent popularity of these terms in the
articles. After eliminating these obvious words, we reviewed the remaining list of descrip-
tors. Descriptors mentioned four or more times were used as main categories for this
report, and peer review was used to ensure the quality of categorization.
Abstract words analysis
We also analyzed the abstracts of the top 20 most cited articles for the most commonly
used words and phrases (i.e., abstract words and phrases analysis) using a word count-
ing programme available at textalyser.net. We compiled abstracts into a single docu-
ment consisting of 1641 words and pasted the document into the programme. We ran
the programme to explore the most commonly mentioned words and phrases. Phrases
mentioned three or more times in the two-word phrase category and two or more times
in the three-word phrase category were included in the list.
Article types and research methodologies
The K-12 online learning scholarship included articles employing a variety of research
methodologies and article types. To establish a common ground for coding these articles,
we selected 20 articles representing 20 unique authors and journals, which we jointly coded
as a research team to agree upon denitions and examples of the dierent categories. After
initial consensus was reached, the remaining articles were divided for coding, and articles
that were dicult to categorize were agged for dual-coding and research team discussion.
The following categories were used to describe the types of articles published
between 1994 and 2016:
DISTANCE EDUCATION 37
Descriptive articles using descriptive statistical data (averages, frequencies),
including responses to surveys and questionnaires;
Inferential articles featuring inferential analysis and experimental/correlational
research designs;
Interpretative articles employing case studies, interviews, and other qualitative
methods to develop theory;
Theoretical articles that were not research-based, including discussions of the-
ories, models, tools, or technologies;
Content analysis research studies where scholars categorized transcribed con-
versations (including discussions postings on the Internet) into categories, which
were then reported descriptively; and
Combined mixed methods studies, where the scholars employed two methods of
inquiry with strong consideration of the scholarly traditions of both.
In categorizing articles that had elements of more than one category, we considered the
primary purpose of the article and placed the article into its primary category.
Results and discussion
We rst discuss the ndings for each type of analysis conducted, before drawing overall
conclusions.
Authorship analysis
This study included 356 articles written by 384 distinct authors, with an average of 2.20
authors per article. Table 1 shows the top 20 authors according to the number of articles
published. We weighted their contribution by order of authorship, giving three points to
rst authors, two points to second authors, and one point to third authors or beyond.
Of the 356 articles in the study, 204 (i.e., 57.3%) were written by these top 20 authors,
ranging from a low of 7 articles to a high of 57.
Interestingly, of the top 20 authors, 2 authors, Graham and Rodriguez-Manzanares,
did not appear as the rst authors of any article, perhaps indicating that at least in this
eld they are primarily mentoring other scholars. A second interesting note is that while
there were almost 400 individual authors, 10 people accounted for almost half of the
scholarship. This indicates that the eld of K-12 online education has been situated in a
small research community, where only a few scholars have produced much of our
understanding. This may indicate a need for caution when interpreting the K-12 online
education scholarship, as it may be easier for bias and groupthink to emerge in such a
tight community. Hopefully, the mentoring of new scholars will lead to greater diversity
of ideas in the coming decade. This is a trend worth watching as the discipline continues
to mature.
Also noteworthy is that the number of authors who published only one article
(n= 276) represents just under three-fourths (i.e., 71.9%) of the 384 authors in the
study. Of these 276 articles, more than half (n= 145, 52.3%) were published from 2011
through 2016, with 42 published in 2016, the last year of this study. Hopefully, these
scholars will return to conduct additional research in the K-12 space. It should be noted
38 K. T. ARNESEN ET AL.
that some of these authors may have published other articles outside the scope of this
study. Further research on these 276 authors might show that many were new scholars
or graduate students at the beginning their careers, thus suggesting further maturation
of this area of research and an expectation for continued acceleration of the scholarship.
Given that our initial analysis of the complete set of data was skewed in favor of one
author, to gain another perspective we narrowed our scope of authors by limiting them
to those who had articles published in journals listed in Scopus (see Table 2). Scopus is a
more selective database, and thus looking at Scopus articles limited the pool to the
articles published in better journals, or at least journals that were better indexed and/or
had been published for a longer period of time by more reputable or known academic
organizations. Using only Scopus journals reduced the number of journals to 22, articles
to 80, and authors to 102.
Of these authors, 11 published three or more articles, with Barbour leading the list. All of
the authors in this list also appear in the complete list of top authors, except DePietro and
Davies, who each published three articles in Scopus journals. Two of the authors on the
complete list do not have any publications in the Scopus list: Russell, who was rst author of
seven articles in the complete list, and Mulcahy, who was rst author of three articles.
When comparing our data in this article to the individual journal reviews completed in
the Journal Article Seriesby West (2011,2016) and colleagues, we found that K-12 online
learning scholars were often recognised in other disciplines and journals. For example, in
the analysis of the American Journal of Distance Education for the years 20012010,
Halverson, Bostwick, Cates, and West (2011) reported that Margaret Roblyer was 1 of 13
scholars who had multiple authorships in the journal. Similarly, in the analysis of the
Journal of Research on Technology in Education from 2001 to 2010, Billings, Nielsen, Snyder,
Table 1. Top authors by number of publications.
No. of articles Author Points
57 Michael Barbour 149
19 Cathy Cavanaugh 47
18 Ken Stevens 49
16 Elizabeth Murphy 44
15 Charles Graham 26
14 Margaret Roblyer 38
14 Jered Borup 35
12 Leanna Archambault 33
11 Diana Greer 26
10 Dennis Beck 24
10 Niki Davis 24
9 Kathryn Kennedy 22
8 Kevin Oliver 22
8 Dennis Mulcahy 19
8 Maria Rodriguez-Manzanares 16
8 Richard Ferdig 14
7 Glenn Russell 21
7 Niki Davis 19
7 Sean Smith 14
7 Erick Black 12
6 4 authors
5 11 authors
4 9 authors
3 24 authors
2 38 authors
1 276 authors
DISTANCE EDUCATION 39
Sorensen, and West (2012) again reported that Margaret Roblyer was one of six scholars
who had published four or more articles in the journal. Additionally, Lynne Schrum who
was 1 of the 276 authors with only one article in our sample, of which she was the sole
author giving her 3 points in our system was 1 of 14 scholars who had published three
or more articles in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education.Further,inthe
analysis of the Journal of Distance Education from 2003 to 2012, Young, Griths, Luke, and
West (2014) reported that Michael Barbour was one of six scholars to publish three or
more articles in the journal, and he was also tied for second in their analysis of the most
prominent authors who published in the journal. In the analysis of the British Journal of
Educational Technology (Mott, Ward, Miller, Price, & West, 2012), the most cited article from
2004 was Murphy (2004), who was listed in our data as the fourth most productive K-12
online learning scholar. Finally, Charles Graham was noted as one of the leading scholars
in the area of blended learning (Halverson, Graham, Spring, Drysdale, & Henrie, 2014), and
he also appeared in our data as the fth most productive scholar in the eld of K-12 online
learning.
It is also noteworthy that many of the most prolic scholars in the eld of K-12 online
learning were among the early researchers in the eld. Black (2013), in her history of
scholarship in the broader eld of distance education, described how the larger eld
began with a small number of pioneering researchers many of whom got their start
from a dissertation focused in the eld who today count among the most widely
known and cited individuals in the eld. The takeaway, we feel, is that the eld of K-12
online learning is populated with high quality scholars who also have great inuence in
the larger elds of distance learning and educational technology.
Table 3 shows the number and distribution of positions of authorship over the
23 years of the study. The numbers in each row show how many times there was an
author listed as rst author, or second author, etc. Therefore, the number of rst authors
is equal to the number of articles published in each year.
Around 2006, the number of articles published each year began to grow in larger
numbers, and so did the number of authors for many of the articles. The percentage of
articles with more than one author grew from 0% and 33% in the rst 2 years to 74% and
88% in the last 2 years respectively. This trend may indicate a tendency of authors to
collaborate more and perhaps to involve graduate students in researching and publishing.
Table 2. Top authors by number of publications in Scopus
journal.
No. of articles Author Points
11 Michael Barbour 23
8 Elizabeth Murphy 24
7 Charles Graham 14
6 Jered Borup 18
6 Cathy Cavanaugh 13
6 Maria Rodríguez-Manzanares 12
4 Dennis Beck 9
4 Eric Black 7
3 Margaret Roblyer 8
3 Meredith DiPietro 7
3 Randall Davies 3
2 14 authors
1 93 authors
40 K. T. ARNESEN ET AL.
This trend towards more collaboration is common across educational technology scholar-
ship. Bodily, Leary, and West (2018) scraped the data on 65 journals from a decade of
publication in the Scopus database, and found that collaborative authorship was increasing,
and that there was a small but positive correlation between number of authors on a paper
and how well that paper was cited. As the eld of K-12 online learning continues to mature,
it seems to be following this same pattern of increasing coauthorship, which will likely lead
to continued citation growth.
Top journals
Articles were published across a range of 155 journals. Table 4 shows the order of top
journals according to the number of articles published in that journal.
The largest percentage came from the Journal of Online Learning Research,which
accounted for approximately 7.0% of all the articles reviewed and for 41% of the articles
published from 2015 to 2017 (n=61).ItshouldbenotedthattheJournal of Online
Learning Research is dedicated to the theoretical, empirical, and pragmatic understanding
of technologies and their impact on primary and secondary pedagogy and policy in
primary and secondary (K-12) online and blended environments(Association for the
Advancement of Computing in Education., n.d., p. 1). Thus, despite beginning circulation
in 2015, this journals sole focus on K-12 settings makes it a key player in this eld.
All other journals in the survey each published fewer than 4.8% of the total articles,
and approximately 28.7% of the articles surveyed (n= 102) were the only article
published in a given journal. However, in addition to this analysis of journals overall, it
is important to note that several journals have published special issues related to K-12
Table 3. Number of authors per year based on position of authorship.
Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
1994 1
1995 3 1 1 1
1996 3 1
1997 4 1
1998 3
1999 7 3
2000 6 4
2001 6 1
2002 9 3
2003 11 6 1
2004 5 3
2005 14 7
2006 12 6 3 1 1
2007 16 11 5 3 2 1 1
2008 22 15 6 5 2
2009 33 22 9 5 2
2010 25 17 10 6 1
2011 20 13 6
2012 23 20 10 1
2013 31 28 21 7
2014 40 37 17 3 1
2015 27 20 10 2
2016 35 31 18 11 5 1
Total 356 250 117 45 14 2 1
DISTANCE EDUCATION 41
online learning. These special issues are key collections of scholarship in this area (and
have an impact on the total number of K-12 online learning articles in that journal):
Online Learning Vol. 19, No. 5 (2015), edited by A. Lokey-Vega and M. K. Barbour:
K-12 online learning research”–3 articles
Journal of Technology and Teacher Education Vol. 22, No. 1 (2014), edited by K.
Kennedy, J. Freidho, and K. Oliver: Current trends and issues in K-12 online and
blended teaching and learning”–4 articles
American Journal of Distance Education Vol. 27, No. 1 (2013), edited by M. K.
Barbour, L. Archambault, and M. DiPietro: Issues and frameworks for K12 online
distance education”–5 articles
Journal of Flexible, Open, and Distance Learning Vol. 17, No 1 (2013), edited by M.
K. Barbour and K. Pratt: Primary and secondary distance education: Expanding the
knowledge base in the schools sector”–2 articles
The Morning Watch Vol. 41, Nos. 12 (2013), edited by E. Murphy: Technology-
mediated learning”–4 articles
Journal of Technology and Teacher Education Vol. 17, No. 4 (2009), edited by N.
Davis, and R. E. Ferdig: Teacher education and K-12 virtual schooling”–6 articles
TechTrends Vol. 53, No. 4 (2009), edited by A Carr-Chellman: Charter schools go
cyber”–7 articles.
Table 4. Top publishing journals.
Journal No. of articles % of articles surveyed
Journal of Online Learning Research 25 7.0%
American Journal of Distance Education 17 4.8%
International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education
a
14 3.9%
Journal of Open Flexible and Distance Learning
b
13 3.7%
Journal of Technology and Teacher Education 12 3.4%
TechTrends 12 3.4%
The Morning Watch 9 2.5%
Distance Learning 8 2.2%
International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 8 2.2%
Quarterly Review of Distance Education 8 2.2%
Journal of Research on Technology in Education 7 2.0%
Online Learning
c
7 2.0%
Teaching Exceptional Children 7 2.0%
British Journal of Educational Technology 6 1.7%
Computers in New Zealand Schools 6 1.7%
Distance Education 6 1.7%
Journal of Interactive Online Learning 6 1.7%
Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration 6 1.7%
Learning & Leading with Technology 5 1.4%
Journals with 4 articles 2
Journals with 3 articles 8
Journals with 2 articles 20
Journals with 1 article 102
a
The Journal of Distance Education became International Journal of E-learning and Distance Education. This number
combines both names.
b
The Journal of Distance Learning became the Journal of Open Flexible and Distance Learning. This number
combines both names.
c
The Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks merged with MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching
and became Online Learning. This number combines all three.
42 K. T. ARNESEN ET AL.
If we were to remove these special issue articles from Table 5,onlytheAmerican Journal of
Distance Education would remain as a top publication. For example, the exclusion ofthe two
special issues of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education would relegate the journal
to 1 of 21 journals that had published two articles related to K-12 online learning. Similarly,
TechTrends would be one of nine journals that published three articles, and Online Learning
would be one of three journals that published four articles. With the exclusion of these
special issues from the analysis, all of the top journals publishing K-12 online learning
articles were focused on the eld of distance education (i.e., Journal of Online Learning
Research; American Journal of Distance Education; International Journal of E-Learning &
Distance Education; Journal of Open Flexible and Distance Learning; Distance Learning;
International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning;andQuarterly Review of
Distance Education). Clearly, the eld has beneted from the use of special issues particu-
larly in journals that were not focused on distance education.
Even accounting for these special issues, our ndings indicate that there was not one
journal that dominated the eld of K-12 online learning (with the exception of the
Journal of Online Learning Research in recent years), but that issues related to K-12 online
education were related to many other research communities. Positively, this means that
many dierent journals are supportive of this type of research and open to receiving
articles, with K-12 online learning being important to and impacting several other similar
scholarly communities. However, this also comes with the challenge that it can be
dicult to nd all of the research in this area as it is scattered across so many venues.
Interestingly, of the 19 journals listed in Table 4, only 7 are listed in Scopus. The journal
that published the most articles in the study (n= 25), the Journal of Online Learning
Research, is not currently listed in Scopus, which is likely one of the reasons for the
signicant dierences with the most prolic authors found between Tables 1 and 2.
Citation analysis
Table 5 lists the top 20 cited articles. For an article to be included in this list, it needed at
least 107 citations. The top 10 cited articles had 241 or more citations; and the top ve
cited articles had 350 or more citations. The topics from the top 20 cited articles cover a
wide range of ideas: six articles focus on teacher practice and/or development; six on
student practice and/or perceptions; ve on literature review or meta-analysis; and two
on online learning in rural schools.
As would be expected, most of the top cited articles were published long enough ago
that they have had time to circulate the eld. Only one article was published within the
last 5 years and two in the last 7 years.
Eight of the authors in the top authors by number of publications list (from Table 1)
also appeared in the list of top cited articles, indicating that the most prolic authors
were also publishing research that was meaningful in the eld: Roblyer with six articles;
Cavanaugh and Ferdig with three articles each; Archambault, Barbour, Black, and Davis
with two articles each; and Kennedy with one. These eight authors are all represented in
13 of the top cited articles. In comparing this citation data with that of Bodily et al.
(2018) that looked at the larger eld of educational technology, published in Scopus-
indexed journals, it is interesting to note that none of these K-12 online learning articles
made the list of top cited articles. Thus, while the eld of K-12 online learning is growing
DISTANCE EDUCATION 43
Table 5. Top 20 cited articles.
No. Author(s)
No. of
citations
Type of
article
1 Cavanaugh, C. (2001). 486 Inferential
Eectiveness of interactive distance education technologies in K-12 learning: A meta-analysis. International
Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 7(1), 7388. Retrieved from https://www.learntechlib.org/j/IJET/
2 Archambault, L. M., & Crippen, K. J. (2009). 479 Inferential
Examining TPACK among K-12 online distance educators in the United States. Contemporary Issues in
Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1). Retrieved from https://www.citejournal.org/
3 Barbour, M. K., & Reeves, T. C. (2009). 432 Theoretical
The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers and Education, 52(2), 402416. doi:10.1016/j.
compedu.2008.09.009
4 McCombs, B., & Vakili, D. (2005). 364 Theoretical
A learner-centered framework for e-learning. Teachers College Record, 107(8), 15821600. Retrieved from https://
www.tcrecord.org/
5 Rice, K. L. (2006). 350 Theoretical
A comprehensive look at distance education in the K-12 context. Journal of Research on Technology in Education,
38(4), 425448. Retrieved from https://www.learntechlib.org/j/ISSN-1539-1523/
6 Roblyer, M. D., & Wiencke, W. R. (2003). 344 Interpretive
Design and use of a rubric to assess and encourage interactive qualities in distance courses. American Journal of
Distance Education, 17(2), 7798. doi:10.1207/S15389286AJDE1702_2
7 Cavanaugh, C., Barbour, M. K., & Clark, T. (2009). 302 Content
analysis
Research and practice in K-12 online learning: A review of literature. International Review of Research in Open
and Distance Learning, 10(1). doi:10.19173/irrodl.v10i1.607
8 Roblyer, M. D. (1999). 298 Mixed
Is choice important in distance learning? A study of student motives for taking Internet-based courses at the
high school and community college levels. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 32(1), 157171.
doi:10.1080/08886504.1999.10782621
9 Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R. F., & Bakia, M. (2013). 245 Inferential
The eectiveness of online and blended learning: A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Teachers College
Record, 115(3), 147. Retrieved from https://www.tcrecord.org/
10 DiPietro, M., Ferdig, R. E., Black, E. W., & Preston, M. (2008). 241 Interpretive
Best practices in teaching K-12 online: Lessons learned from Michigan Virtual School teachers. Journal of
Interactive Online Learning, 7(1). Retrieved from http://www.ncolr.org/
11 Davis, N. E., & Roblyer, M. D. (2005). 222 Theoretical
Preparing teachers for the schools that technology built: Evaluation of a programme to train teachers for
virtual schooling. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 37, 399409. doi:10.1080/
15391523.2005.10782445
12 Kennedy, K., & Archambault, L. M. (2012). 170 Descriptive
Oering pre-service teachers eld experiences in K-12 online learning: A national survey of teacher education
programmes. Journal of Teacher Education, 63, 185200. doi:10.1177/0022487111433651
13 Roblyer, M. D., & Marshall, J. C. (2002). 170 Inferential
Predicting success of virtual high school students: Preliminary results from an educational success prediction
instrument. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 35, 241255. doi:10.1080/
15391523.2002.10782384
14 ODwyer, L., Carey, R., & Kleiman, G. (2007). 150 Inferential
A study of the eectiveness of the Louisiana Algebra I on-line course. Journal of Research on Technology in
Education, 39, 289306. doi:10.1080/15391523.2007.10782484
15 Osborn, V. (2001). 149 Inferential
Identifying at-risk students in videoconferencing and web-based distance education. American Journal of
Distance Education, 15,4154. doi:10.1080/08923640109527073
16 Roblyer, M. D., Davis, L., Mills, S. C., Marshall, J., & Pape, L. (2008). 134 Inferential
Towards practical procedures for predicting and promoting success in virtual school students. American Journal
of Distance Education, 22,90109. doi:10.1080/08923640802039040
17 Ferdig, R. E., Cavanaugh, C., DiPietro, M., Black, E. W., & Dawson, K. (2009). 121 Theoretical
Virtual schooling standards and best practices for teacher education. Journal of Technology and Teacher
Education, 17, 479503. Retrieved from https://www.aace.org/pubs/jtate/
18 Davis, N., Roblyer, M. P., Charania, A., Ferdig, R., Harms, C., Compton, L. K. L., &
Cho, M. O. (2007).
110 Inferential
Illustrating the virtualin virtual schooling: Challenges and strategies for creating real tools to prepare virtual
teachers. The Internet and Higher Education, 10,2739. Retrieved from https://www.learntechlib.org/j/ISSN-
1096-7516/
19 Hannum, W. H., Irvin, M. J., Banks, J. B., & Farmer, T. W. (2009). 107 Inferential
(Continued)
44 K. T. ARNESEN ET AL.
and being published in a variety of dierent journals, it is not yet as well cited as other
aspects of educational technology scholarship. Also, looking at the journals that pub-
lished these top 20 cited articles is revealing. Of the top 20 cited articles only 1 article
appears in the top three publishing journals of the complete data set. It may be
expected that journals with more publications would also have more of the top cited
articles, but that does not seem to be the case.
There is again some consistency with our ndings and the results of the Journal
Article Seriesby West (2011,2016) and colleagues. For example, the most cited article
from 2009 in the review of International Review of Research in Open and Distance
Learning from 2002 to 2011 (Olsen, Spring, Young, & West, 2013) was Cavanaugh et al.
(2009). Similarly, in the analysis of the American Journal of Distance Education (Halverson
et al., 2011), the most cited article for that journal in 2009 was Black, Ferdig, and DiPietro
(2008). Finally, in the analysis of the Journal of Distance Education (Young et al., 2014),
Barbour (2007b) was the top cited article for Journal of Distance Education in 2007.
Finally, Table 6 shows the top cited articles for each year of the study. Eleven of these
top cited articles for each year are listed in the overall list of top cited articles (see Table 5).
The top cited articles for each year provide additional interesting trends. First, there
was a major jump in citation numbers from 1997 to 1998. The top cited article from 1997
has been cited only 11 times; whereas the article from 1998 has been cited 61 times.
After 1998, the lowest number of citations any top cited article received was 52 in 2004
(if we remove articles from 2015 and 2016 due to their limited metrics and newness in
the eld). The fact that nearly all of the top cited articles for each year after 1998
received more than 50 citations helps illustrate the emergent growth of the eld along
with the increase in the number of articles published each year. In 2005, published
articles reached double digits; and after 2008, almost each year had at least 20 articles
published (with the exception of 2011 with only 18).
Another interesting nding from the analysis of most-cited articles is that 6 of the top
20 most cited articles were literature reviews, theoretical articles, or meta-analyses. This
echoes similar ndings in the larger educational technology scholarship about the value
of theoretical or review articles and how highly they are cited (West & Borup, 2014).
While some journals expressly disregard review papers in their call for papers, this trend
indicates that there is still substantial value found in this type of scholarship.
A notable trend emerging from a review of the top cited articles since 1994 is that no
one journal seems to dominate the list (see Table 7).
The Journal of Distance Education (now International Journal of E-learning and Distance
Education) appears three times, and four other journals appear twice. The remaining 12
journals appear only once. Overall, it does not appear that the specic journal creates
Table 5. (Continued).
No. Author(s)
No. of
citations
Type of
article
Distance education use in rural schools. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 24(3). Retrieved from http://jrre.
vmhost.psu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/24-3.pdf
20 Irvin, M. J., Hannum, W. H., de la Varre, C., & Farmer, T. W. (2010). 107 Descriptive
Barriers to distance education in rural schools. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 11(2), 7390. Retrieved
from https://www.infoagepub.com/quarterly-review-of-distance-education.html
DISTANCE EDUCATION 45
Table 6. Top cited articles each year.
Year/
total
articles Author(s) No. of citations Type of article
1994 Stevens, K. 26 Theoretical
1 Some applications of distance education technologies and pedagogies in rural schools in New Zealand.
Distance Education, 15(2), 318326. doi:10.1080/0158791940150210
1995 Stevens, K. 29 Theoretical
3 Geographic isolation and technological change: A new vision of teaching and learning in rural schools in
New Zealand. Journal of Distance Learning, 1(1) 3238. Retrieved from http://www.jofdl.nz/index.php/
JOFDL/index
1996 Haughey, M., & Fenwick, T. 19 Theoretical
3 Issues in forming school district consortia to provide distance education: Lessons from Alberta. Journal of
Distance Education, 11(1), 5181. Retrieved from http://www.ijede.ca/index.php/jde/index
1997 McGreal, R. 11 Theoretical
4 Information technology and telecommunications: A course on the World Wide Web. Journal of Distance
Education, 12(1/2). Retrieved from http://www.ijede.ca/index.php/jde/index
1998 Litke, C. D. 61 Interpretive
3 Virtual schooling at the middle grades: A case study. Journal of Distance Education, 13(2), 3350. Retrieved
from http://www.ijede.ca/index.php/jde/index
1999 Roblyer, M. D. 298 Theoretical
7 Is choice important in distance learning? A study of student motives for taking Internet-based courses at the
high school and community college levels. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 32, 157171.
doi:10.1080/08886504.1999.10782621
2000 Muirhead, W. D 74 Interpretive
5 Online education in schools. The International Journal of Educational Management, 14, 315324. doi:10.1108/
09513540010378969
2001 Cavanaugh, C. 486 Inferential
6Eectiveness of interactive distance education technologies in K-12 learning: A meta-analysis. International
Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 7,7388. https://www.learntechlib.org/j/IJET/
2002 Roblyer, M. D., & Marshall, J. C. 170 Inferential
9 Predicting success of virtual high school students: Preliminary results from an educational success prediction
instrument. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 35, 241255. doi:10.1080/
15391523.2002.10782384
2003 Roblyer, M. D., & Wiencke, W. R. 344 Interpretive
10 Design and use of a rubric to assess and encourage interactive qualities in distance courses. American
Journal of Distance Education, 17,7798. doi:10.1207/S15389286AJDE1702_2
2004 Barbour, M. K., & Mulcahy, D. 52 Descriptive
4 The role of mediating teachers in Newfoundlands new model of distance education. The Morning Watch, 32
(1). Retrieved from http://www.mun.ca/educ/faculty/mwatch/nmwatch.htm
2005 McCombs, B., & Vakili, D. 364 Theoretical
14 A learner-centered framework for e-learning. Teachers College Record, 107, 15821600. doi:10.1111/j.1467
9620.2005.00534
2006 Rice, K. L. 350 Theoretical
12 A comprehensive look at distance education in the K-12 context. Journal of Research on Technology in
Education, 38, 425448. doi:10.1080/15391523.2006.10782468
2007 ODwyer, L., Carey, R., & Kleiman, G. 150 Inferential
16 A study of the eectiveness of the Louisiana Algebra I on-line course. Journal of Research on Technology in
Education, 39, 289306. doi:10.1080/15391523.2007.10782484
2008 DiPietro, M., Ferdig, R. E., Black, E. W., & Preston, M. 241 Interpretive
22 Best practices in teaching K-12 online: Lessons learned from Michigan Virtual School teachers. Journal of
Interactive Online Learning, 7(1). Retrieved from http://www.ncolr.org/
2009 Archambault, L. M., & Crippen, K. J. 479 Inferential
30 Examining TPACK among K-12 online distance educators in the United States. Contemporary Issues in
Technology and Teacher Education, 9,7188. Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org
2010 Irvin, M. J., Hannum, W. H., de la Varre, C., & Farmer, T. W. 107 Descriptive
24 Barriers to distance education in rural schools. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 11,7390. Retrieved
from https://www.infoagepub.com/quarterly-review-of-distance-education
2011 Murphy, E., Rodriguez-Manzanares, M., & Barbour, M. K. 101 Interpretive
18 Asynchronous and synchronous teaching and learning in high-school distance education. British Journal of
Educational Technology, 42, 583591. doi:10.1111/j.14678535.2010.01112.x.
2012 Archambault, L. M., & Kennedy, K. 170 Descriptive
(Continued)
46 K. T. ARNESEN ET AL.
more citations for each years top cited article. Finally, it is also noteworthy that the
author with the highest number of publications (i.e., Michael Barbour with 57 articles)
only appears twice in both the top 20 cited articles and top cited articles by year. In
comparison, Margaret Roblyer appears six times in the top 20 cited articles; Cathy
Cavanaugh, Niki Davis, and Rick Ferdig all appear three times each; and even Leanna
Archmbault, Erik Black, and Meredith DiPietro all appear twice.
Keyword/abstract analysis
To understand topical trends in at least a slice of topics of interest in K12 online
research, we analyzed the abstracts and ERIC descriptors (i.e., keywords) for the top 20
cited articles (see Tables 8 and 9). The abstracts contained 1641 words with 692 unique
words. The ERIC descriptors consisted of a total of 237 descriptors of either single words
or phrases, representing 141 unique descriptors.
An analysis of the abstracts and descriptors revealed focused interests in preparing
teachers toteach online, creating and assessing programmes and environments for distance
Table 6. (Continued).
Year/
total
articles Author(s) No. of citations Type of article
22 Oering pre-service teachers eld experiences in K-12 online learning: A national survey of teacher
education programmes. Journal of Teacher Education, 63, 185200. doi:10.1177/0022487111433651
2013 Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R. F., & Bakia, M. 245 Inferential
32 The eectiveness of online and blended learning: A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Teachers
College Record, 115(3), 147. Retrieved from https://www.tcrecord.org/
2014 Kim, C., Park, S. W., & Cozart, J. 63 Inferential
35 Aective and motivational factors of learning in online mathematics courses. British Journal of Educational
Technology, 45(1), 171185. doi:10.1111/j.14678535.2012.01382.x
2015 Rice, M. F., & Carter, R. A. 18 Interpretive
27 When we talk about compliance, its because we lived it: Online educatorsroles in supporting students
with disabilities. Online Learning, 19(5). doi:10.24059/olj.v19i5.581
2016 Toppin, I. N., & Toppin, S. M. 8 Theoretical
36 Virtual schools: The changing landscape of K-12 education in the U.S. Education and Information
Technologies, 21, 15711581. doi:10.1007/s10639-0159402-8
Table 7. Journals publishing the top cited articles each year.
Journal No. of articles
Journal of Distance Education (1996, 1997, 1998) 3
Journal of Research on Computing in Education (1999, 2002) 2
Journal of Research on Technology in Education (2006, 2007) 2
Teachers College Record (2005, 2013) 2
British Journal of Educational Technology (2011, 2014) 2
Distance Education (1994) 1
Journal of Distance Learning (1995) 1
The International Journal of Educational Management (2000) 1
International Journal of Educational Telecommunications (2001) 1
American Journal of Distance Education (2003) 1
The Morning Watch (2004) 1
Journal of Interactive Online Learning (2008) 1
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (2009) 1
Quarterly Review of Distance Education (2010) 1
Journal of Teacher Education (2012) 1
Online Learning (2015) 1
Education and Information Technologies (2016) 1
DISTANCE EDUCATION 47
learning, and assessing student characteristics and achievement in online classes. In parti-
cular, rural schools were frequently the focus of these articles, indicating the important role
that online learning can have for these vulnerable schools. As a potential criticism of the
eld, most of these high-volume keywords are related to training of teachers or the
administration and organization of K-12 online learning, without as much apparent focus
on pedagogy and learning issues.
Article type analysis
The number of articles discussing K-12 online learning has been steadily growing (see
Table 10).
Of the articles surveyed, the largest number came from the year 2016 (the most recent
year surveyed). In addition, 44% of the articles (n= 156) were published in the last 5 years,
and 76% (n= 270) were published in the last 10 years. This continues a trend that
Cavanaugh et al. (2009) identied when they found that about 10% of the articles in their
review were from 1997 to 2000 but reported more than twice as many from 2006 to 2009.
While the overall number of articles published each year has an upward trend, the number
of articles published has plateauedslightly since 2008 with an average of 28 articles per year.
Table 8. Abstract word analysis.
Word or phrase Frequency
Two-word phrases
Teacher education 9
Education/learning courses 9
Education/learning programmes 7
Learning/school environments 7
Rural school(s) 6
Learning opportunities 4
School districts 4
United States 3
High school 3
Quasi experimental 3
Classroom instruction 3
Three-word phrases
Teacher education programmes 3
Theory and research 3
Research and practice 2
Rural school districts 2
Traditional learning environments 2
Table 9. ERIC descriptor analysis.
Descriptor Number
Distance education 15
Educational technology 9
Online course 9
Virtual classroom 7
Elementary secondary education 6
Computer-assisted instruction 5
Instructional eectiveness 4
Nontraditional education 4
Student characteristics 4
Teaching methods 4
48 K. T. ARNESEN ET AL.
Overall, the most common article classication was theoretical. However, interpretive
and inferential articles appear to be growing in frequency, and in the past 5 years,
interpretive articles became more common than theoretical articles. While theory devel-
opment is important in an emerging eld, K-12 online scholarship needs to follow the
counsel from Saba (2013), who believed that as needed and important as these
[exploratory] studies are, their results are seldom subjected to experimental data-
based research for determining the validity of newly surfaced constructs beyond their
initial exploration(p. 51). Thus, a focus on rigorous interpretive and inferential methods
is important, and moving forward, scholars should continue their work in both experi-
mental research and theoretical and qualitative inquiry to grow research evidence about
eective practice unique to K-12 environments (Barbour, 2018b), and not simply rely on
broader distance learning ndings. These ndings might indicate that the eld of K-12
online learning is maturing and shifting from conceptualizing K-12 online learning to
providing more data-based conclusions.
Interestingly, in examining the types of articles published, the trends in the complete
set (n= 356) do not match those of the top 20 cited articles or of the top cited articles
from each year (n= 23) (see Tables 5,6, and 10). For example, in the complete set
inferential articles constitute only 11.5% of the total (with 38 of the 41 articles being
published since 2007). But in the top 20 cited articles, inferential articles account for 45%
of the articles, and in the top cited articles by years, 26.1%. Although inferential articles
form only a small part of our data set, they appear to have a disproportionate impact in
the eld. Similarly, theoretical articles, which make up 40.2% of the complete data set,
constitute only 25% of the top 20 cited articles and 34.8% of the yearly top cited articles
Table 10. Types of articles by year.
Year Theoretical
Interpretive/
qualitative Descriptive
Inferential/
quantitative Mixed
Content
analysis
Not
identied Total
1994 1 1
1995 2 13
1996 1 23
1997 4 4
1998 2 1 3
1999 4 1 2 7
2000 3 1 1 1 6
2001 3 1 2 6
2002 5 3 1 9
2003 5 3 2 1 11
2004 1 2 2 5
2005 11 2 1 14
2006 8 1 2 1 12
2007 8 3 4 1 16
2008 8 4 4 3 2 1 22
2009 14 7 6 3 2 1 33
2010 13 3 5 2 1 1 25
2011 9 5 2 2 2 20
2012 7 8 5 2 1 23
2013 10 11 3 4 2 1 31
2014 12 10 8 4 3 1 2 40
2015 5 8 5 6 3 27
2016 7 11 6 8 3 35
Total 143 78 56 41 19 8 11 356
Total % 40.2 21.9 15.7 11.5 5.3 2.2 3.1 100
DISTANCE EDUCATION 49
(with ve of the eight articles published before the turn of the century). Overall, it does
not appear that the type of research method used in an article created more citations for
each years top cited article.
Conclusion and implications
In this study, we analyzed 356 journal articles representing our best estimate of the eld of
K-12 online learning scholarship since 1994. It is easy to get lost in the minutia of each
category of analysis in this article, looking at specic lists of authors, journals, top cited
articles,and research methodologies. However, in consideringthemes acrossthe categories,
we found many insights that can inform continued development of the eld of K-12 online
learning or promote reection about where we are as a eld and where we might go. First,
there is strong evidence that the eld of K-12 online learning is growing at an accelerated
pace. Second, we noted a strong focus on theoretical work, comprising 40% of the total
number of articles. However, attention to inferential and interpretive articles appears to be
growing and meeting, and in some cases in recent years, even outstripping, the number of
theoretical articles. Third, when comparing our data in this article to the individual journal
reviews completed in the Journal Article Seriesby West (2011,2016)andcolleagues,we
found that a pieceof good news is that K-12 online learning scholars and articles were often
among the most cited and recognised in other disciplines and journals.
While the eld of distance education in general is large with many prominent
journals, handbooks, and decades of scholarship, we found the eld of K-12 online
learning to be much narrower but growing. Familiar names surface regularly as key
authors, but in the last few years there has been a rapid acceleration not only of new
articles but especially of new authors. This infusion of new scholarship will undoubtedly
lead to new ideas and trends in this area over the next decade. We also found that the
eld of K-12 online learning began primarily emphasizing theoretical articles but is now
maturing and emphasizing increasingly more data-based articles. Although inferential
studies are still rare, we predict they are likely to grow in the future.
Interestingly, we did not nd any one journal to dominate as the main publication
outlet. Instead, K-12 online learning scholarship is scattered among many journals,
providing rich opportunities for scholars while also making it more dicult to discern
trends across the discipline. This makes literature review and meta-analysis papers
particularly important in this domain, and these should continue to be encouraged.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
Notes on contributors
Karen T. Arnesen is a masters degree student in instructional psychology and technology at
Brigham Young University. Her research interests include preservice teacher training, self-regu-
lated learning, and adult English language learners.
50 K. T. ARNESEN ET AL.
Joshua Hveem is a masters student at Brigham Young University in instructional psychology and
technology. His research centres around second language acquisition, specically in Korean and
Arabic. He is particularly interested in the use of corpora to help students nd authentic material.
Cecil R. Short is a doctoral student in instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young
University. His research focuses on K-12 blended teaching, open education, and teacher
development.
Richard E. West (@richardewest; http://richardewest.com)is an associate professor in the
Instructional Psychology and Technology department at Brigham Young University. He researches
how to create learning environments that prepare students for the twenty-rst century, including
learning environments that foster group creativity, microcredentials to promote competency
learning, and technologies for online communities.
Michael K. Barbour is an associate professor of Instructional Design at Touro University California.
He has been involved with K-12 online learning in numerous countries for over two decades as a
researcher, teacher, course designer, and administrator. Michaels research focuses on eective
design, delivery, and support of K-12 online learning.
ORCID
Karen T. Arnesen http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2621-6283
Cecil R. Short http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8125-0877
Richard E. West http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1417-0823
Michael K. Barbour http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9037-3350
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DISTANCE EDUCATION 53
... While there has been recent growth in the research base on K-12 online learning (Arnesen, et al., 2019), Barbour (2018) argues that while "the use of distance and online learning at the K-12 level is growing dramatically…the literature -and in particular the research -to support the effective design, delivery and support of K-12 distance and online learning has not kept pace" (pg. 521). ...
... Along with this focus on the efficacy of online learning as compared to traditional instruction, much of the early literature also focuses on discussing the benefits and challenges of online learning. In a review of the literature from 1994-2016, Arnesen, et al. (2019) found that 40.2% of the journal articles were theoretical, with only 49.1% falling into the categories of inferential/qualitative, descriptive, and inferential/quantitative combined. This finding points to a need for increased research seeking to better understand the practice of virtual teaching. ...
Thesis
This dissertation consists of three papers. "Online Learning, Offline Outcomes: Online Course Taking and High School Student Performance." This paper uses fixed effects models to estimate differences in contemporaneous and downstream academic outcomes for students who take courses virtually and face-to-face, both for initial attempts and for students taking courses for credit recovery. We find that while contemporaneous outcomes are positive for virtual students in both settings, downstream outcomes vary by attempt type. For first-time course-takers, virtual course-taking is associated with decreases in the likelihood of taking and passing follow-on courses, and of a measure designed to proxy for graduation readiness. For credit recovery students, virtual course-taking is associated with increased likelihood of taking and passing follow-on courses, and of being in line for graduation. Supplemental analyses suggest that selection on unobservables would have to be substantial to render these results null. "Bridging School Data Use in Principle and in Practice." This paper seeks to better understand the practice of data use for improvement in schools, as well as how well research literature on school data use captures the process as it unfolds in practice. To do so, I first synthesize leading research literature to create a framework reflecting the “in principle” guidance for school data use. This framework is then used to describe and understand the practice of data use in a high-data-use school over a two-year case study. My primary finding is that while the “in principle” guidance for data use captures many important components of the process, it understates the complexity in the relationships between these components. The consequence of this understatement is a bifurcation of the supports required for data use and the process of school data use, belying the reciprocal interdependence that I argue better describes their connectedness. "Allocations and Expectations: Comparing Teacher Reports of Virtual and Face-to-Face Instruction." This paper relies on a teacher survey asking teachers to describe their experiences teaching both in face-to-face classrooms and in a well-established statewide virtual learning system. The responses are used to create two groups, face-to-face and virtual, made up of the same set of individuals. I then compare the similarities and differences between the two learning modalities. Statistically significant differences are found in the time allocated to several common teaching tasks, in several aspects of the work environment, in expectations for common materials and practices, and in the overall impression of the curriculum and materials. Ultimately, my findings point to a need for more research of this type to better understand the practice of virtual instruction and how it differs from traditional face-to-face instruction. For policy and practice, this work also suggests a need for greater recognition of these differences, and the strengthening of systems to support and prepare teachers and administrators to be effective in virtual instruction.
... Nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean that K-12 online learning research and practice is scant. Since the last two decades, the field has been not only growing rapidly in publication volume but also maturing by including more data-based studies (Arnesen et al., 2019). Nonetheless, the challenges discussed and addressed in these studies are the ones that online learning still faces today including the ones related with technology (Arnesen et al., 2020). ...
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Since the spring of 2020, many early childhood education programs (pre-K, K, 1st, and 2nd grades) had to close as governments around the world took serious measures to slow down the transmission of COVID-19. As a result, the pandemic forced many early childhood teachers to start teaching online and continue supporting their students remotely. Unfortunately, there were few lessons that these teachers could learn from experience to cope with this change since online learning in early childhood settings had been scarce until the outbreak of the pandemic. In response, the goal of this interview study was to investigate how early childhood teachers in public and private schools implemented online learning during the pandemic, the challenges they encountered when teaching online, and their suggestions to address these challenges. The results showed that the teachers did not sit still and patiently wait for the re-opening of the schools. Instead, they took assorted initiatives to support their students’ learning and development remotely. They faced several challenges on the way but also suggested various methods to address these challenges through developmentally appropriate technology use. The results of this study have implications for teachers when early childhood programs return to normal. The study creates opportunities for future research to gain greater understanding of the design and implementation of online learning activities with young learners.
... Starting in 1990s, when the first e-learning platforms appeared in the field of education, distance education has been an object of study for many researchers (Arnesen, Hveem, Short, West & Barbour, 2019). Gradually, distance education was perceived as a pedagogical process different from conventional education methods, while it also provides educational opportunities to a wide range of citizens with different social, economic, cultural and personal characteristics (Karagianni & Anastasiadis, 2009). ...
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In Greece, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the schools' closure during the 2019-2020 school year. The Ministry of Education tried to develop online platforms so that the students could have access to education. The use of distance learning came to the fore. The teachers used the online teaching tools available as a response to this challenging situation. Nevertheless, most of them had not received any relevant training and had at their disposal minimal resources, mainly of their own and not public ones. A nationwide survey was designed investigating teachers' views on distance learning benefits. 515 teachers working in Greek primary education sector - both at kindergartens and primary schools- participated in the research. Their answers show three main benefits from the distance learning implementation at school education: (a), it enabled some students to access school education. Those students could not otherwise attend school education (b) it contributed to the communication among students as well as between students and teachers, and (c) it increased the ICT use by teachers. Despite these benefits mentioned, teachers stated that distance learning is not a substitute for ordinary classes and face-to-face learning.
... Forskningsartiklar inom området är fortfarande spridda i flera olika tidskrifter vilket kan göra att det är svårt att skapa sig en överblick och se mönster (Barbour, 2018). Studier som görs inom området är småskaliga och ofta utan teoretisk förankring (Arnesen et al., 2019). Forskningen som gjorts inom ramen för FoU-programmet Digitala lärmiljöer -likvärdig utbildning med fjärr-och distansundervisning (DigiLi) är ett bidrag till att öka kunskapen om fjärr-och distansundervisningens villkor och förutsättningar. ...
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This is an electronic reprint of the original article. This reprint may differ from the original in pagination and typographic detail. Cite as: Åkerfeldt, A., Hilli, C., Bergdahl, N., & Hrastinski, S. (2022) [Design for learning in remote and distance education: a focus on presence and digital learning environments ]Att designa för fjärr- och distansundervisning med fokus på digitala lärmiljöer och närvaro. Published in: Anna Åkerfelt (Ed.). Digitala lärmiljöer – likvärdig utbildning med fjärr- och distansundervisning (Report series 2022:2) - Slutrapport från FoU-programmet DigiLi. (pp- 51-82)
... Starting in 1990s, when the first e-learning platforms appeared in the field of education, distance education has been an object of study for many researchers (Arnesen, Hveem, Short, West & Barbour, 2019). Gradually, distance education was perceived as a pedagogical process different from conventional education methods, while it also provides educational opportunities to a wide range of citizens with different social, economic, cultural and personal characteristics (Karagianni & Anastasiadis, 2009). ...
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In Greece, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the schools' closure during the 2019-2020 school year. The Ministry of Education tried to develop online platforms so that the students could have access to education. The use of distance learning came to the fore. The teachers used the online teaching tools available as a response to this challenging situation. Nevertheless, most of them had not received any relevant training and had at their disposal minimal resources, mainly of their own and not public ones. A nationwide survey was designed investigating teachers' views on distance learning benefits. 515 teachers working in Greek primary education sector - both at kindergartens and primary schools- participated in the research. Their answers show three main benefits from the distance learning implementation at school education: (a), it enabled some students to access school education. Those students could not otherwise attend school education (b) it contributed to the communication among students as well as between students and teachers, and (c) it increased the ICT use by teachers. Despite these benefits mentioned, teachers stated that distance learning is not a substitute for ordinary classes and face-to-face learning.
... A review of the literature (Arnesen et al., 2019;Bekele & Menchaca, 2008;Saadé et al., 2007) reveals that research on online teaching is focused more so on postsecondary rather than K-12 education. Since online teaching was a first-of-akind experience for many educators, it is therefore crucial to explore K-12 STEM teachers' experiences in this new teaching and learning environment. ...
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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures were mandated by governments across the globe. This necessitated an abrupt shift to online/distance teaching. Through a mixed-methods study, the authors explored STEM teachers’ transition to online teaching and learning in a Canadian context. This subset of the larger study investigated (i) teachers’ views of and attitude toward online teaching and (ii) successes and challenges encountered with online teaching. Data were collected through an online questionnaire administered to 70 Grade 1–12 science/STEM subject teachers in a Canadian province between May and July 2020. Findings are discussed through the lens of self-efficacy theory and the technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) framework. Results indicate that despite few successes, teachers faced a wide array of challenges that negatively affected their attitudes and views toward online teaching, and that the support received did not parallel their expectations. Teachers’ experiences, self-efficacy, and technological competency slightly enhanced their views of online teaching but were not sufficient to shift their mindset. Recommendations include effective professional development initiatives and support for teachers to facilitate teachers’ transition and enhance their personal views toward online teaching.
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The present study answers the question of how prepared the world was in school distance education. The situation of primary and secondary education is deepened around experiences in distance education focused on students, in the period that includes the decade between 2010 and 2019. Designs and modalities of distance education, types of interaction, recurring themes, and impact of reported experiences were analyzed. The results reveal a low preparation in distance school education, compared to the high demand for online education that has arisen since the COVID-19 pandemic. The blended learning design appears as the most used modality, while the type of asynchronous interaction was the most frequent before the pandemic. In addition, differences are recognized in the impacts reported in the analyzed literature, which allows establishing a type of impact that includes distance education as its independent variable, and another that considers it as a more contextual element while studying the relationships between other variables.
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This chapter examines research to reveal the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on K-12 education. This systematic survey focuses on the literature on emergency remote teaching (ERT) at the K-12 level published in 2020-2021. Therefore, it provides a detailed overview of identified trends and patterns. Based on the findings from 199 articles surveyed in this study, the most commonly used method of analysis is found to be qualitative method, the most used keyword is COVID-19, and the most preferred data collection tool is questionnaire. Moreover, it is observed that the data were collected predominantly online, and the convenience sampling was utilized in the USA, Philippines, Greece, and Turkey. Additionally, this chapter discusses the identified problems, concerns, and crucial points, and provides suggestions for the educators. This chapter is believed to make an important contribution to the literature presenting a picture of emergency remote teaching implementation at the K-12 level.
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This qualitative case study used Wenger's (1998) communities of practice (CoP) framework to analyze how the ongoing electronic learning community (eLC) process at an established state virtual high school (SVHS) supported online teachers in building relationships with online students. Lave and Wenger's (1991) concept of legitimate peripheral participation (LPP), which describes the participation of new CoP members as they move toward full membership, was used to examine the participation and perspective of new eLC members at SVHS. Elements of LPP were evident in case study data, particularly in the way the eLC process granted new members access to resources and to the practice of other members. Other elements of LPP were less visible in the eLC process, such as becoming and conferring legitimacy. Findings from this study suggest that online instructors should be given opportunities to build community and develop relationships with one another through repeated, ongoing collaboration. To overcome barriers due to separations in distance and time, community-building must be an intentional component of the eLC process. The eLC process provided teachers with opportunities to improve teaching in order to increase support for student learning. 420
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Using the online Scopus database, we retrieved all instructional design and technology (IDT) scholarship between 2007 and 2017 across 65 journals. In this paper, we analyzed the research and trends in this corpus of IDT scholarship and investigated the top cited papers, keywords, authors, publishing countries and publishing universities. We also analyzed the effect of collaboration on citation numbers as well as how journal citation metrics differ across databases (eg, Scopus, Google Scholar). The field of IDT is broad and diverse, and this paper plays an important role in providing a glance into the past to understand scholarship trends. Knowing our history can help us reassess where we should go moving forward as the field continues to grow in the 21st century.